It was all a fuzzy haze. Such is life for anybody who visits Amsterdam, I imagine.
If I could recommend one city for young adults to visit – even if only for a weekend, though you will likely want to stay longer – it would be Amsterdam. It took me less than a day (but maybe a couple of drinks) to come to this conclusion, despite the grey clouds and mild rain that overshadowed and filled the city. For someone who despises the rain (yet chooses to continuously return to it for 9 months out of the year), this is saying something.
What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas. Or at least it is supposed to. Amsterdam, however, takes a different approach to the experiences visitors have there, instead openly advertising its, well, openness. Amsterdam is renowned for being the cannabis capital of the world and embraces its reputation as the hotspot for partygoers of all kinds. With that said, nobody really goes to Amsterdam and returns home itching to fill their family-friendly blog with stories of the Red Light District. Pretty understandable stance I’m taking, right? Maybe if my dad starts his own blog titled The Memoirs of David Hansen: The Truth About the 1970s I’ll share an extra story or two. But until then, you’ll have to deal with normal, less exciting versions.
Our time in Amsterdam started on Friday, May 17, and it started with a trip to the Hard Rock Café: Amsterdam. [Courtney and I are making it a point to go to as many different Hard Rocks as we can during our time in Europe. So far, we have Florence and Amsterdam checked off. Barcelona and Rome soon to come.]
After our first
Dutch meal of the trip, we began the real adventures. Our first stop: Anne Frank’s House. Now, if any of you reading ever go to Amsterdam, go to Anne Frank’s House. And do it the first day you get there. Don’t forget or lose track of time or come up with any other unimportant excuse, just do it. Though simple, it is, by far, one of the greatest learning experiences I have ever received, and it is unlike any other museum that you could go to. I am far from the most knowledgeable person regarding the story of Anne Frank but even I could understand and feel the significance of such a place just moments after walking in. It was unlike any of the art or history museums or churches I had visited in Italy or elsewhere – it captivates you from your first step to well beyond your last. The story is fascinating, for lack of a better, more appropriate word. I find it utterly remarkable that the entire story is only possible because of one teenager’s diary, and that the story of that one teenager and her family has forever given an otherwise impossible insight into such a terrible time. There are a lot of things for tourists to do in Amsterdam and the rest of Europe, but if given the chance to visit Amsterdam and spend at least a couple hours there, Anne Frank’s House is something that everybody should experience at least once.
[Of course, I wasn't supposed to take photographs in Anne Frank's House so...I (ashamedly) snapped a couple for this blog. I don't feel good about it, but it is just such an intense and important story that I couldn't let it go undocumented.]
After Anne Frank’s House, Courtney and I readied ourselves for the Beer Tour we signed up for only a couple days before. Our group was small – just our tour guide (Shaun or Sean?) and an older couple from Calgary, Canada. Just quickly, let’s get this out of the way: the man from Canada was awesome, offering to buy us drinks at nearly every bar (and successfully doing so at a random little coco leaf liquor store. Our tour was certainly not hurt by the fact that he got drunk alongside us and became our friend.
As for the tour, it was more of a pub crawl with information about beer, Amsterdam, European politics, and pretty much anything else our guide cared to talk about. Though we felt like beer amateurs initially (after meeting outside of the place pictured below), Courtney and I soon found that what we lacked in experience, we more than made up for with enthusiasm.
We tried four or five different types of beer (including Dutch and Belgium beers) and were taken to a liqueur tasting room where we bought and tasted a couple liqueurs (obviously).
Each bar or pub had its own unique feel. The first was compact and sociable, dimly lit and made us feel like we were drinking in the heart of Amsterdam; the second and third were newer, more modern, and one had chicken thighs on rotisserie that were begging me to buy them (unfortunately, I passed); and the fourth was another one similar to the first, only we were also served cheese (which was very good) along with our beers.
Each bar that we were taken to was full with locals – our guide makes sure to take those he is guiding to local places, giving each group a true experience of drinking beer (and other alcohols) in Amsterdam. Should you ever go to Amsterdam, look up Urban Amsterdam Adventures on TripAdvisor and book one of Shaun’s (or Sean’s?) tours. He doesn’t push you from place to place on his tours; he allows the group to dictate where the tour is going to go, and from this he guides you to a very interesting view of Amsterdam’s central area. His tour was both insightful and entertaining, and I would strongly recommend it to everyone. And no, I am not just saying all of this because he instagrammed a photograph of Courtney and I. But that didn’t hurt his case…
After the tour, Courtney and I decided to stop at one of Amsterdam’s famous coffeeshops on our way back to the hotel. Without giving anything away: in Amsterdam, coffeeshops don’t exactly sell coffee. Some do, but…that isn’t really what they are about. The orange juice is really good though.
One last note about that first day: the Red Light District has its fair share of local fast food shops. You may think, “Fast food? Ew, Wally. I only eat vegetables, fruits, and the necessary proteins. I thought you liked good food.” Yeah, yeah, yeah; valid criticism. Too bad these little shops sell really good french fries and I bought some and you didn’t. Sucks to miss out on good (if not good for you) food, healthy people.
The next day, Courtney and I spent much of the morning and early afternoon walking around and soaking in Amsterdam at a leisurely pace. Of course, once we came across a movie theater and saw an ad for The Great Gatsby, we could not resist. As some of you may know, Courtney loves movies and I love Leonardo DiCaprio. (Note: He is getting old and a little chubby in the chin. And I kind of like it. It
makes me feel better about my growing chin is good to see actors age like us regular citizens.) So, we splurged and watched the movie (in 3D, no less!) and it was…very good. Classic Leo, the rare instance in which a movie outdoes its book counterpart a movie based on a book doesn’t fall flat on its face. I would recommend it to my father — which is saying something — though I am sure he will find some difference between book and movie that drives him crazy. That is David Hansen for you.
After the movie, we continued our touring of Amsterdam on foot, before settling down in the building where Heineken began, some three- or four-hundred years ago. Now converted into a hotel, the bar on the street still sported the original (at least in design) device that was used in the past. Our tour guide the previous day told us that Heineken tastes different in Amsterdam than anywhere else in the world because the recipe was created using the water found in Holland. Amazingly enough, water tastes different all around the world, and this creates different tastes of Heineken. Unsurprisingly, the Amsterdam version of Heineken is his favorite, thought he stopped short of calling it a top-level beer. Two cold ones later (and they were better, at least in my opinion, than those in the United States) and we were back on the street.
Across the street was a fresh waffle shop. Of course. One look at the menu and we were hooked. Freshly made waffles? Yep. Nutella? Yep. Straw — oh, never mind. “I’ll just take one with Nutella, please.” My pocket was four euros lighter, yet my heart was forty times happier. Weird. Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never bought a belgian waffle with Nutella on it. I should start blogging before dinner because I always end up making myself hungry.
A couple hours and a couple stops later, Courtney and I arrived at the canal in front of the Central Station for the night’s activity: a candlelight canal cruise. This mini-cruise lasted more than two hours, and saw us tasting different cheeses and wines and even offered a romantic moment or two. There is a bridge in Amsterdam (aptly named the ‘Skinny Bridge’ as I am anything but these days) that has a tradition: if you go under it with your better half and share a kiss with them under the bridge, you will last together forever. Naturally, Courtney and I
decided to forego this tradition obliged, much to the enjoyment of all of the other couples (read: all of them were significantly older). So I guess I’m stuck with her for all of eternity now. Things could be worse.
Our time in Amsterdam ended the next day, but not before another treat (or two), compliments of an American bakery we had found on our first day. It was an incredibly fun (and educational) experience, and it ranks high on my list of places that I would like to return to, hopefully in the near-future.
But before we go back to Rome, let’s look at some of the photos that Amsterdam probably doesn’t (or maybe it does) want you to see: